Southwest Virginia Artisan Conference


About the Conference


Immerse yourself in a unique gathering that pays homage to the craftsmanship deeply rooted in the Appalachian region during this three-day event, April 25-27, 2024, at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace in Abingdon, Va.

The Southwest Virginia Artisan Conference will offer attendees a rich and collaborative experience featuring insightful discussions, hands-on workshops, and networking opportunities.


April 25-27

(All Events Will Be Held at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace Unless Otherwise Noted)

Thursday, April 25

Registration Opens
(Inside Entrance)

1:00pm – 5:00pm
Pre-Conference Workshop:
From Craft Hobby to Business
Conference Add On ($30 for workshop)

Conference Welcome Reception 

Friday, April 26

Registration Opens/Café Opens

Opening Ceremony

Keynote Speaker:
Why Arts Are So Important to Appalachia and the role of artist in communities

Breakout Session:
How to Sell Your Brand Story

Provided at Conference

Breakout Session:
Utilizing Farmers Market to Increase Sales and Engage in Your Community

Breakout Session:
Galleries & Exhibitions: Knowing Your Audience and Your Voice

Breakout Session:
The Art of Social Media

Breakout Session:
From Stressed to Success

Sales Outlet Panel Discussion

Saturday, April 27

Café Opens


Crafting Confidence:
Strategies for Artists and Makers

Breakout Session:
Taxes for Creatives

Breakout Session:
Sales and Service for Introverted Creatives

Closing Remarks

From Craft Hobby to Business

Trainers: Cynthia Deis & Tiffany Coley
April 25
1:00pm – 5:00pm
SWVA Cultural Center

Artist Cost: $30

Participants will be guided through discussions and activities that will help them to fully understand the steps for moving a craft or art practice from the hobby level to a profitable business. Two presenters will allow for break out conversations and individual attention for participants. Topics will include Pricing For Profit, How to Raise Your Prices, How To Set Show Sales Goals, and Marketing On A Budget. Participants will complete a program application that will allow instructors to tailor content to the cohort needs. Optional consulting sessions will happen in the weeks after the meeting and will be conducted via phone call or zoom and will allow participants to ask follow-up questions once they have begun to digest the workshop content. Participants will leave the workshop day with handouts including pricing rubrics, goal calculators and marketing checklists among others. Up to 30 participants, no prior technical/computer skills needed.

  • Presenters will offer two, 2-hour sessions with a break.
  • Both presenters will lead breakout sessions with participants to allow for individual conversations and deeper learning. Individual Consulting Sessions
  • Presenters will offer 20 min consulting sessions (per participant) on covered course topics to participants after the event.
  • Consulting sessions will be conducted via phone call and can be scheduled for 2-4 weeks after the workshop.
  • Consulting sessions are only available to participants.

Keynote: Why Arts Are So Important to Appalachia and the Role of Artist in Communities

Trainer: Jason Flack
April 26
SWVA Cultural Center

Sharing his story and how arts play a role is his life and place in the community

How to Sell Your Brand Story

Trainer: Alyssa Phillips
April 26
11:00am – 12:00pm
SWVA Cultural Center

Even with the highest-quality work, nothing can replace the power of personal relationships when it comes to connecting with your audience and converting them to customers. So how can you form more authentic bonds, especially in today’s very digital landscape?

Enter: brand storytelling. Branding touches everything. And story is what resonates with the right audience and turns them into raving fans.

This session will review how to uncover your unique story, as well as how to use it to authentically bridge the gap to your customers through best-fit marketing methods and strongly-aligned design.

You’ll walk away knowing

• How to learn and understand your brand story
• How your brand story helps identify marketing opportunities
• How your brand story enforces your design elements for a consistent visual brand

Utilizing Farmers Markets to Increase Sales and Engage in Your Community

Trainer: Martha Biggar
April 26
1:00pm – 2:15pm
SWVA Cultural Center

Learn how participating in Farmers’ Markets can increase your sales and help you network in your community.

Galleries & Exhibitions: Knowing Your Audience and Your Voice

Trainer: Steph Wadman
April 26
1:00pm – 2:15pm
SWVA Cultural Center

As artists, we wear many hats: creators, entrepreneurs, salespeople, networkers… etc. when really we would just like to create our works and for people to see them, think about them, talk about them, and, in the best case scenario, buy them!

In this workshop, we will discuss artist practice and how it relates to different gallery and exhibition markets, knowing and curating your voice for applications and conversations, best practices for preparing your artwork to be accepted and installed, what you should expect from the venue and what is expected of you, how to make the best of rejection in a very competitive market, and how to boost your sale potential.

The Art of Social Media

Trainer: Taryn Ferro
April 26
2:30pm – 3:45pm
SWVA Cultural Center

Social media is your best marketing tool outside of yourself, and the best way to capitalize on your social media game is to be yourself, own your content, and maximize your efforts.

This workshop will be a crash course on how to boost your efforts across social media, which will include learning the basics of the current algorithm, learning the benefits of reels and carousels and how to make them work in your favor, looking at your practice from new perspectives to create fresh content, creating quality content through software and hardware setup, managing your content, and how to make social media work for you.

From Stressed to Success

Trainer: Josh Ray
April 26
2:30pm – 3:45pm
SWVA Cultural Center

What is wholesale? Is it right for you and your business?

How to get started:

  • Pricing your products
  • Creating a line sheet
  • Setting minimums
  • Order processing and fulfillment
  • Seasonal wholesale and pre-buys
  • How to find retailers to carry your products

Crafting Confidence: Strategies for Artists and Makers

Trainers: Azriel Weaver
April 27
SWVA Cultural Center

Confidence plays a fundamental role in the journey of every artist and craftsperson. It serves as the driving force behind bold experimentation, fearless expression, and unwavering pursuit of artistic vision. In the dynamic and often unpredictable landscape of the creative industry, confidence serves as a steadfast companion, guiding individuals through challenges, setbacks, and moments of self-doubt. The concept of confidence in art and in life might seem elusive to some and commonplace for others. That is the reason this workshop is designed to show you that confidence is a quality that can be cultivated and strengthened no matter how confident or unconfident you feel right now. Participants will leave this workshop with a deeper understanding of creative confidence and practical strategies to overcome self-doubt, embrace their unique talents, and navigate the challenges of a creative career with resilience and self-empowerment.

Key Points:

  • Understanding Creative Confidence
  • Building a Strong Foundation
  • Overcoming Self-Doubt and Criticism Cultivating Resilience and Self-Empowerment
  • Activity: Confidence Boosting Exercises – Best Self Story
  • Implementing Transformation
  • Activity: Journaling – Setting Intentions and Commitments to Sustain Confidence Beyond the Workshop Q&A

Tax Help for Creatives

Trainers: Hannah Cole
April 27
10:00am – 11:30am
SWVA Cultural Center

What can I deduct? Do I bring receipts to my accountant? Is my art a business or a hobby? What is a Schedule C? How do I deduct my home studio?  Why do freelancers have to pay taxes quarterly, and how do I do that? Hannah Cole is a tax expert who specializes in working with creative businesses and artists. As a long-time working artist with a high-level exhibition history, and a tax and money columnist for the art blog Hyperallergic, the financial challenges of freelancers and small creative businesses are both relevant and personal to Hannah. She will discuss the basic tax equation, self-employment tax and the estimated quarterly tax system, audit concerns for the creative person, and other tax issues specifically relevant to artists and makers, followed by a question and answer period. Hannah Cole is the founder of Sunlight Tax, which specializes in friendly, informative tax preparation for artists, engaging, art-world-savvy tax education workshops for artist groups, and empowering creative people to set up for long-term success and take control of the financial side of their careers through her program, Money Bootcamp. She is also the host of the Sunlight podcast, where she talks about taxes, money, and careers for self-employed people who have a big vision for changing the world with their work.

Sales and Service for Introverted Creatives

Trainers: John Hornsby
April 27
10:00am – 11:30am
SWVA Cultural Center

Join us for an empowering workshop designed exclusively for introverted creatives. Discover your unique strengths and navigate the challenges you face in sales and customer service roles. Gain essential skills tailored to introverted styles and achieve newfound confidence in your professional journey. Have fun as we explore, and learn to excel in these essential aspects of your professional development.

Key Focus Areas:

Introverted Creatives in Sales and Customer Service:

  • Get real about the unique strengths and challenges of introverted creatives in sales and customer service roles.
  • Leveraging our superpowers like creativity, empathy, and problem-solving capabilities within these roles.

Developing Essential Sales and Customer Service Skills:

  • Proficiency in active listening and effective communication tailored for introverted styles.

  • Cultivation of empathy to establish authentic connections with clients.

  • Skillful problem-solving strategies to address client needs.

  • Exploration of persuasive communication techniques suitable for introverts.

Practical Application in Real-Life Scenarios:

  • Leveraging your skills in sales and customer service contexts.

  • Adaptation of authentic styles to meet diverse client requirements.

  • Resolution of common challenges encountered by introverted creatives in these roles.

Key Takeaway:

  • Achieve confidence as an introverted creative by honing these essential skills, setting you apart in your professional journey

Meet the Conference Trainers

Photo of Tiffany Coley

Tiffany Coley

Tiffany Coley is a jeweler and silversmith with a background in tech business. With over 15 years of teaching and craft sales experience, she sells her work to galleries and stores around the US and works out of her studio in Durham, NC. Tiffany has a deep knowledge of selling crafts at both retail and wholesale as well as how to create a focused product line. Tiffany is certified in the REAL Entrepreneurship and REAL Craft courses and consults with artists about pricing, production and sales. She brings her deep knowledge of the economics of art and craft to the course. Tiffany is on the board of Liberty Arts in Durham.

Photo of Cynthia Deis

Cynthia Deis

Cythnia Deis is a Raleigh-based artist, writer and arts educator with experience in a variety of mediums. Her background as a production jewelry designer and retail store owner provides her with an artist’s understanding of business and entrepreneurial issues. Certified in REAL Entrepreneurship and REAL Craft courses, she also teaches and consults on pricing, studio layout, and email marketing with artists, craftspeople and small arts organizations. With her business and mentoring background, Cynthia is the Education Director of Triangle ArtWorks, where she works to develop and implement programming and events focused on artists and arts organizations as sustainable economic factors in their communities.

Photo of Jennifer Reis

Jason Flack

Jason is an “Urban Folk” expressionist artist, community leader, speaker and a native of Johnson City, Tennessee. His work has been heavily influenced by personal life experiences as well as many cartoons, comic books, and music. He has been drawing for over 30 years and painting for over 10. Jason has entrenched himself in an all-things-art lifestyle, being a part of local art advocacy and bridging the gap between self-taught and academia. He was called to start painting after the sudden death of his twin sister, Jessica, in 2010. In his life, he has always represented “both sides of the tracks” being half black, half white, and having both rural and an urban upbringing. His work elicits energy by using bright colors surrounded by bold black lines. Since the beginning, he has used painting as therapy to direct grief into movement and thoughtfulness and to hold a mirror to society. Jason believes that the best way to indicate your community is healthy is by supporting, promoting and showcasing local talent. He was influenced by the work of many artists including: Jean DuBuffet, Margaret Kilgallen, Ed Roth, Genndy Tartakovsky, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the summer of 2021, his painting titled, “The Black Nanny” won Best in Show at the Kingsport Art Guild’s Appalachian Art Show. In November 2022 and 2023, he was the back-to-back recipient of the Network of Advocates for Promising Practices in Education Award (NAPPE) in the FL3TCH3R Exhibit at the Reece Museum at ETSU. He is also a recipient of the Art Alliance Mountain Empire Art Achievement Award for 2023. Jason’s work can be found all over downtown Johnson City, TN, in private exhibits, and in the Reece Museum permanent collections including the Sammie L. Nicely Collection. Jason was a featured visionary speaker at TEDxJohnson City in 2023 and will be a demonstrating artist for TEDxJohnsonCity in June 2024. You can follow him on Instagram (@artbyjasonflack), and he can be reached by email:

Martha Biggar

Martha Biggar

Bio coming soon!

SWVA Artisan Conference Logo

Alyssa Phillips

Alyssa Phillips owns Amp’d Designs, which transforms businesses through branding and web design crafted with intention, strategy, and style. She loves collaborating with fearless and ambitious entrepreneurs to provide designs that match the level of intention and quality they put into their work.
Alyssa holds a BFA in Communications Design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and worked as an art director in NYC before moving to the mountains of Asheville. Outside of design, she loves music, cooking, baking things with chocolate in them, and experimenting in the garden.
Photo of Jennifer Reis

Steph Wadman

Steph Wadman is an accomplished artist, designer, curator, and consultant living in Knoxville, TN. Born and raised in Canada and immigrating to Florida in 2006 at the age of 18, Steph has immersed herself in art and design as a means to build community and discourse.

Gaining her BFA from the University of Tampa and her MFA from Ohio University has afforded her opportunities to pursue teaching at U Tampa and Ohio U, acting as an art specialist for Restoration Hardware, home interior design for organizations and individuals, and curatorial opportunities in galleries, restaurants, and retail spaces.

Using her unique experiences, she has developed a deep understanding of artist-venue relationships, which led her to found The Fold Designs, an art and design consulting and production company servicing local artists and businesses, an endeavor in practical and meaningful approaches and connections within the community.

Steph lives, works, and plays in Knoxville with her partner, their dog Bug, and their cat Captain. She has her own studio practice, co-founded an art critique club, and looks forward to teaching a sculptural workshop at Visionaries and Voices in Cincinnati this summer.

Photo of Taryn Ferro

Taryn Ferro

Taryn Ferro, owner of Aw, Snap Photography is a self-made entrepreneur in Knoxville, TN. Originating from Shreveport, LA, her background started in print media and focused on photography as a photojournalist but has since branched into supporting her community through photography, social media marketing, and content creation. Her true passion is using her specialized skills alongside storytelling and community building to support local artists and businesses. Through Taryn’s background in photography and storytelling, she built a following for her environmental-based photography supporting local brands and individuals, such as Crafty Bastard, Born This Way, Lulu Liquor Cakes, Pretentious Craft Co., Color of Kismet, The Bath Lab, and many more. Her development of social media practices for artists and small businesses have been revered in East Tennessee for their accessibility and market success.

Photo of Josh Ray

Josh Ray

Josh Ray is a long-time entrepreneur and freelance artist focused on wholesale in the luxury bath and body works retail market. Josh was born and raised in Knoxville in a large family who challenged him to differentiate himself from an early age. From the young age of twelve, he has embraced his entrepreneurial spirit through selling his baked bread, cake decorating, clay figurines, and candy resale to other children.

His early understanding of markets and consumer needs led him to a long history working and creating in the world of luxury resort hospitality in well-known companies such as Blackberry Farms, the French Lick Resort and Casino, and Windy Hill Farm Preserve, all while continuing his pursuit of developing unique luxury bath and body products in order to launch The Bath Lab in 2017. Now in 2024 with products in over a hundred retail locations and a regular presence in popular Appalachian markets Josh has made his mark in the Appalachian and country-wide luxury product communities.

Josh is supported by his two dog children Edgar and Arlo, and his god-dog Bug.

Photo of Azriel Weaver

Azriel Weaver

I help creative entrepreneurs, artists, makers, & designers build foundational practices to achieve life and creative fulfillment.

Before becoming a Creative Coach I was an entrepreneur co-operating a 6,000 sq. ft. retail space called Shotwell located in Union Square in the city of San Francisco, CA. I have also been a professional graphic designer for over a decade, doing work for small businesses to large billion-dollar corporations like American Eagle Outfitters.  I have had opportunities to fly around the world for my jobs, work on amazing projects, & meet incredible people. Because of my background as a creative entrepreneur I understand and can relate to the creatives unique challenges and ways of being.

I learned the art of coaching at the Life Purpose Institute, based in San Diego, CA. LPI is an International Coaching Federation-accredited program that has helped millions of people around the globe since 1984. I am also a certified Heroic Performance Coach, which is all about helping people flourish via ancient wisdom and modern science.

Photo of Hannah Cole

Hannah Cole

Hannah Cole is a tax expert who specializes in working with creative businesses and mission-driven solopreneurs. A long-time working artist herself, she’s helped tens of thousands of self-employed people skill up with accessible tax and money education, through her Money Bootcamp program, speaking engagements from Florida to Alaska, and on the Sunlight podcast. She is the founder of Sunlight Tax.

Photo of John Hornsby

John Hornsby

John Hornsby, Founder and Creative Director of Hornsby Creative and President of AIGA Asheville, is a seasoned expert in brand strategy and experience design. For over 25 years, he has been the force behind crafting compelling branded experiences that inspire and captivate. His strategy-first approach equips organizational leaders to seize opportunities, drive growth, and resonate authentically with their target audiences.

Distinguished by a rich background in special events, design and strategy, John shines in designing physical brand experiences and environments. He believes in the power of clarity and authenticity, fostering growth that aligns seamlessly with an organization’s core values.

Outside the design studio, John can often be found exploring the trails of the majestic Great Smoky Mountains, with his family and canine companions.

Local Hotel Partners

Comfort Suites of Abingdon

$119 + tax

for King or double queen

1093 Ole Berry Drive, Abingdon, VA, 24210, US

Clarion Pointe Abingdon

$75 + tax

170 Jonesboro Rd., Abingdon, VA, 24210, US
(276) 258-6775
Deadline for promotional pricing is 3/30/24


$150 per night

 833 State St, Bristol, VA 24201

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